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NHL Prospect Report: Harvard loaded with offensive weapons

Jimmy Vesey
Jimmy Vesey
Matt Dewkett

Heading into the season, pundits around ECAC Hockey questioned if Harvard had the defense and goaltending necessary to make a run for the top of the league standings.

One weekend against a rebuilding Dartmouth squad certainly doesn't prove anything, but the early returns are that the Crimson are still a threat to be reckoned with going forward.

Ted Donato's team blew the Big Green out, 7-0, in Hanover before finishing the sweep a night later with a 5-2 win at the Bright Hockey Center. What can safely be asserted after a 12-goal opening weekend is the Harvard offense won't be skipping a beat this season.

Nashville Predators pick Jimmy Vesey had a goal and three assists Saturday and then came back with one score in Sunday's win. His goal on Sunday was an impressive display of hand-eye coordination where he batted a puck into the net from just outside the side of the crease. His presence is obvious each and every time he's on the ice. He's big, explosive and makes plays happen with his ability to move the puck. He made a few really pretty passes in the zone. Barring injury, it's hard to believe Vesey won't win the 2016 Hobey Baker Award.

Centering Vesey's line was New Jersey Devils prospect Alexander Kerfoot, who appears to be in as good shape as ever after battling some lower body injuries. His foot speed is dynamic. It wasn't the line's best game on Sunday, but his quickness and craftiness will be a big catalyst for the top unit's success.

Buffalo Sabres prospect Sean Malone, the second line pivot, was very good on Sunday. He had three assists. He's one of those players that's just solid. He's strong on his skates and does a good job with and without the puck. He's a smart player with high hockey IQ.

Colin Blackwell, a San Jose Sharks pick who has always battled concussions, had two assists. His quickness allows him to get to pucks on the forecheck. Despite his history of head injuries, he still showed a willingness to fight for loose pucks along the walls and dish the puck out.

Joining Blackwell and Malone was freshman Ryan Donato, the coach's son. A Boston Bruins pick, his skating ability was on display Sunday night. He gets low, can make terrific cuts and uses his edges well. His puck possession skills are immense. He also has a quick, hard release on his shot, as evidenced on his first collegiate goal.

Donato utilized five forwards on his top power play unit. Vesey, Kerfoot and Criscuolo played up front with Tyler Moy and the younger Donato on the point. The puck went through Donato at the top of the point and he carried the puck up in transition.

Sophomore Merrick Madsen, a Philadelphia Flyers prospect, got the nod in net both nights, his first two career starts. He's a big goaltender, who's fairly quiet in net. He doesn't take up as much ground as some goaltenders his size appear to in the crease. On Sunday, he let in two goals on just 20 shots, including one from a bad angle that hit him in the helmet before going between his body and the near post.

Harvard has a big test Friday night with a home tilt against Yale. The game will match ECAC Hockey's top offense against the league's top defense. Keith Allain's Bulldogs are also 2-0-0 after a two-win weekend over Princeton and Massachusetts.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.